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60               A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
I entered the silent Pyramid through the gaping hole which Caliph Al Mamoun had made in its side, and began ^ my exploration of the titanic structure, not for the first time, it was true, but for the first time upon such a strange quest as had brought me again to Egypt. After making my way some distance, I reached the end of this horizontal hole and my path changed into the Pyramid's original entrance passage.
Then, torch in hand, with head bent down almost to my knees, I descended the long, low, steep, narrow and slippery continuation of the corridor. This awkward posture was exceedingly uncomfortable, while the declivity of the stone floor compulsorily hastened the speed of my descent.
I wanted to preface my sojourn in the King's Chamber with an examination of the underground region of the Pyramie], access to which in modern years has been barred by an iron portcullis which prevents the general public from entering this dismal region and being half suffocated. The old Latin tag, "Facilis descensus Averni," recurred unexpectedly to memory, but this time there was a grim sardonic humour in the words. I saw nothing in the yellowish beam of torchlight but the hewn rock through which this floor had been cut. When, at long last, I reached a small recess on the right, I seized the opportunity to slip into it and straighten out my body for a couple of minutes. I discovered that the recess was nothing else than the terminus of the nearly perpendicular shaft, the so-called Well, which descends from the junction of the ascending passage and the Grand Gallery. The old name still sticks to this shaft because for nearly two thousand years it was thought to have water at the bottom. Not till it was cleared out by Caviglia of the mass of debris which had accumulated in it was the bottom discovered to be perfectly dry.
It was narrower than the passage which I had just left, this unattractive, roughly excavated opening that yawned up into the solid rock. 1 discovered little niches cut into the sides, parallel with each other, which afforded foothold and handhold for the somewhat perilous climb.
It led upwards irregularly and tortuously for a considerable distance until it reached a large roughly cut chamber shaped like a bowl, the one now called the Grotto, which marked the level of the rocky plateau upon which the Pyramid had been built. The Grotto had been partly constructed in an enlarged